Monday, 25 August 2014

The Other Side of the Camera...

(photo by Alex Gorham)
The past few months have ebbed away somewhat into a mix of rehabilitation, attempts at acclimatising and other general expedition FAFF! But two weeks ago I did something a bit different and took Jen and Al (from Light Shed Productions) on a whistle-stop tour of my life in Chamonix. The aim was to make a short film for BMC TV and Mountain Equipment, basically about my clumsiness! And then the resultant general stubbornness to get back climbing as soon as I can.
(photo by Alex Gorham)
With the photography and fine art filming side of my brain feeling decidely rusty from Chamonix life, I was pretty psyched to experience how climbing films are made! Nice to have a bit of culture in my mountain life for once. As Jen had sent me the shot-list in advance, I was able to exercise my art brain and figure out where would be suitable locations for all the segments of the film.

Chamonix was either rainy or too bright to see through a camera!
Bonus filming snack...
Predictably, I had a bout of really bad coldsores at the start of the filming week (sunburn and getting caught in a thunderstorm are a winning combination...) So I wasn't massively psyched about appearing on camera, as I looked like I had been punched in the face... But it was good fun to get stuck into the project so I didn't mind in the end! 
The sections of the film that I presumed would be easy were actually a bit more complicated than I expected, and the parts that I was concerned about went super smoothly. Filming road cycling in particular was a lot more stressful than we expected! Especially when I realised my stopping distance had trebled in the wet conditions... In spite of angry 74 plate drivers, neither of us crashed and we didn't cause any collisions either so it was all good in the end! Also, unlike wild camping in the Highlands, pitching a tent in the very steep-sided Chamonix valley also proved problematic. However we lucked out and found an idyllic, if small, patch of meadow next to a mountain stream.
It's actually really hard to make pitching a tent look interesting....(Photo by Alex Gorham)
The alpine section was perhaps the most concerning part of the film for all of us; nowhere is really 'safe' as most of the easy glaciers around Chamonix have crevasses and steep slopes to tumble down. As the newspapers from this summer season show, even very experienced guides aren't immune to tragic accidents. Jen has worn crampons and been mountaineering before, but to strong boulderer Alex, this was a whole new ball game! Although the Midi arete would have been an impressive location, (being a knife edge arete with an 1000m drop on one side) it's definitely not the best place to learn how to use crampons efficiently! Fortunately the top bin to Grand Montets has a set of steps down onto a nice flat glacier so was a much safer and easier venue, but still has a thoroughly spectacular ambience.
Looks like it had been windy up top of GM... Good job the sun came out for a bit!
Alex and Jen already looking like Alpine pros whilst filming on the Petite Aiguille Vert
Shooting on snow is really difficult, especially when the sun is out and the rocks create a big contrast. I was really surprised how beautiful all Jen and Alex's shots were on the glacier. It's always cool to introduce new people to the mountains around Chamonix too. I'm really looking forward to seeing the final edit. I'm glad that I can give something back to the BMC after they have been so generous with grant money for my expeditions. Watch this space for more information of my next one LEAVING IN A WEEK!!

Alpine styling on the Petite Aiguille Verte! Check out Al and Jen's version of events here.

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